Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Poster for Orpheus musical in Ottawa

Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire; Music by Jeanine Tesori/ Based on the Dreamworks animation motion picture and the book by William Steig

Orpheus Musical Theatre Society  directed by Jenn Donnelly

A terrific production can make a believer out of a curmudgeon of a reviewer who has always hated body-noise and bathroom jokes. No doubt about it.

Orpheus Musical Theatre Society‘s Shrek the Musical overcomes the limitations of the script, the generally unmemorable score and assorted loud belches and regular breaking of wind to land a show of stunning quality and great visuals. It also offers a low-key presentation of the message that love and acceptance come in many forms.

The tale — originally a children’s picture book (1990), then, in 2001, an award-winning animated movie that inspired the 2008 stage musical — revolves around a fearsome swamp-dwelling green ogre who rescues a princess. In sync with once-upon-a-time land, the princess is imprisoned in a tower and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon.

And the magnificent dragon of the Orpheus production is a showstopper. Manipulated by four puppeteers, the imposing dragon makes an impact comparable to that of the acclaimed horse puppets in Nick Stafford’s stage adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo novel War Horse.

Such other images as the highly disciplined dance routines, as choreographed by Mary Hills, smooth set changes and almost every other aspect of director Jenn Donnelly’s vision make Shrek a visual delight, as well as giving a clear indication of her background as a successful set designer.

Fine performances from the principals make the show sparkle. Damien Broomes, as the fast-talking donkey, maximizes the fun in his role, while the always reliable Réjean Dinelle-Mayer demonstrates that control does not depend on tall stature. (It is also impossible not to feel some sympathy for an actor who is brought to his knees from beginning to end.)

 

As the adult Princess Fiona, Vivian Melsness is in good voice, particularly as a Morning Person, and she and Justin Hills, in the title role, connect beautifully in I Think I Got You Beat. While Hills makes his Irish-accented ogre a surprisingly soft-natured monster, he delivers a consistent characterization. (The name is drawn from the German word for fright (schreck).) As Pinocchio, Jamie Rice has the unenviable task of pitching his singing voice so high that he is difficult to understand, but he remains convincing about his desire to be a real boy.

 

The overall impression, enhanced by the orchestra, under Gabriel Leury’s direction — and made clear by the close attention of the many children in the audience — is of the joy that this knockout of a production brings to everyone on and off stage.

A perfect gift for a “green” holiday season./Shrek The Musical continues at Centrepointe to November 26.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Director: Jenn Donnelly

Musical director: Gabriel Leury

Choreographer: Mary Hills

Set: Jenn Donnelly and Tony Walker

Sound: John Cybanski

Lighting: Amber Hood

Costumes: Sandy Goldsmith

Cast:

Shrek                                      Justin Hills

Donkey                                    Damien Broomes

Princess Fiona                          Vivian Burns Melsness

Lord Farquaad                          Réjean Dinelle-Mayer

Pinocchio                                    Jamie Rice

Gingy/Sugarplum Fairy             Meagan Chapin

Dragon/Bo Peep                          Jerusha Lewis

Young Shrek/Knave of Hearts   Alison  Cachero

Young Fiona/Wee Willie Winkie      Michelle Sangalli

Teen Fiona/Ugly Duckling       Brietta Howard

Mama Ogre/Mother Goose        Donna St. Jean

Papa Ogre/Straw            Paul Melsness

Sticks                         Jared Langdon

Bricks                           Rick Burk

Papa Bear                      Jim Tanner

Mama Bear                  Kelly Fuoco

Baby Bear                    Vanessa Monteiro

Guard Captain             Marcus Winchester

Big Bad Wolf/Bishop   John Leclaire

Shoemaker’s Elf        Tanya Guimond

Fairy Godmother      Laura Burk

Wicked Witch                Roxane Delisle

Pied Pipe                       Bebe Brunjes

Mad Hatter                  Morgan Coughlan

Peter Pan                     Bennett Langdon

John Darling                  Hailey Quiquero

Tin Soldier                      Luc Cormier

Marionette                    Mélanie Evans

Rat Dancer                    Courtney Dinelle-Mayer

Orchestra

Conductor                                                              Gabriel Leury

Bass………………………………………………………………Tom Mcmahon

Cello……………………………………………………………..Steve Smith

Drums…………………………………………………………….Pierre Huneault

Guitars                                                          Pierre Forêt, Pierre Monfils

Horn………………………………………………………………Keith Estabrooks

Keyboards                             Steve Pankiewicz, Cheryl Jarvis-Woods

Percussion………………………..Brydone Charlton

Reed                                                  Brian Boggs, Matt Dawber

Trombone                                      Chris Thiessen

Trumpet                                        Kazimier Samujlo

Violins                                             Sophia Pan, Galina Rezaeipoura